…and so is the United Nations, by extension
- We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.
The truth is that we do have the right to invade their countries, kill or depose their leaders, and, through persuasion and reason as opposed to coercion, convert them to Christianity (noting that other civilized faiths like Judaism and Hinduism do not seek converts). The governments of places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and pre-2003 Iraq rest entirely on foundations of sand, and they have no legitimate rights or authority in the community of nations. They are no more “governments” than organized crime families or bandits who, with the aid of some guns and hired muscle, make themselves de facto masters of pieces of territory–whether it’s the Crips or Bloods staking a claim to inner city turf or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lording it over a piece of Central Asia. There is no reason for the United States, Israel, Canada, or any other civilized nation to even listen to these so-called countries’ voices in the United Nations or elsewhere.
The essential legitimacy of any government rests on what China calls the Mandate of Heaven (tien ming): “The right to rule is based on the virtue of the ruler.” A virtuous ruler holds his or her country in trust for the people, a concept that is reinforced by the Indo-European root dher (“to hold”). This root appears in Dharma (the Right Way), and titles like jemadar and subadar. The context of “to hold” is responsibility and stewardship as opposed to ownership. When the ruler violates this trust by exploiting and oppressing his subjects, they have an inherent and natural right to overthrow and replace the dysfunctional ruler. It is reasonable to extend this right to external powers, with the stipulation that their actions serve the people of the country whose dysfunctional ruler they overthrow.
The principle that the leader is the people’s servant is universal in civilized nations. The founder of Christianity said explicitly that one who would lead must be the servant of all, and Frederick the Great added that the prince is the first servant of his state. Frederick’s father, Frederick William I, put this idea into practice by ending the Prussian court’s lavish expenditures. He limited the number of horses and servants that members of his court could maintain, at least at the expense of the taxpayers, while other countries built establishments like Versailles on the backs of their people.
To be more specific, the ruler (or government) has the duty to uphold the natural rights of the people. This is the foundation of the social contract under which people surrender some autonomy to their government in exchange for its protection. When the government breaks this contract by acting against the natural rights of the people, they have the inherent right to abolish that government and replace it with another. This “Right of Revolution” was mentioned long ago by the Chinese philosopher Mencius, and it was put into practice in 1776:
- We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Note the essential statements here:
(1) Natural Rights: People “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
(2) The Social Contract: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
(3) The right of revolution when the government breaches the Social Contract: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”
New Hampshire’s Constitution elaborates on this very clearly:
- [Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.June 2, 1784
It is therefore obvious that governments that engage in the following behavior are not legitimate governments at all, but associations of common criminals, despots, theocrats, and so on with no more legitimacy than their weapons and hired thugs might give them.
(1) Stoning women to death for “adultery” (Iran)
(2) Flogging a woman for being alone with her rapists (Saudi Arabia)
(3) Hanging a woman for killing a man who was trying to rape her (Iran)
(4) Lynching gay people for their sexual orientation (Iran, Palestinian Authority)
(5) Raising children to be suicide bombers or expendable mine clearance units (Palestinian Authority, Iran)
(6) Starting wars of aggression (Egypt, Syria, pre-1967 Jordan, Arab League)
(7) Menacing neighbors with invasion and/or nuclear weapons (Mainland China, pre-2003 Iraq)
(8) Throwing political opponents into plastic shredders, kidnapping women to be raped and tortured to death, and torturing soccer players for losing international matches (Saddam Hussein and his murderous sons)
(9) Deploying poison gas against undesirable ethnic minorities (Saddam Hussein and “Chemical Ali”)
(10) Genocide of religious or ethnic minorities (Sudan)
It may be convenient or even necessary for civilized nations to act as if these criminal entities, despots, or theocrats are governments, especially when, like Soviet Russia and Mainland China, they possess intercontinental nuclear missiles. A common criminal can kill as many people with an ICBM as a legitimate government can, and the criminal is far more likely to do so. It may also be convenient to recognize them if they have large reserves of oil, although we recall the advice to “kick their ass and take their gas.” Noting that the Saudi government is holding female American citizens in white slavery, the United States has more than just a right to overthrow and replace it. The Saudi people, and especially the female half of the Saudi population, would be far better off under Euro-American government than the rule of Saudi despots. The Saudi people would still get their oil money, with the parasitic House of Saud being cut out of the loop.
There is nothing wrong with colonialism and imperialism, by the way, as long as the colonial power acts for the benefit of the people under its rule. King Leopold of Belgium became infamous for treating the people of the Belgian Congo like slaves, but England provided its colonial subjects with schools, hospitals, and rule of law. “Rule of law” meant that local despots could no longer cut someone’s head off for any reason or no reason, widows could not be thrown into their husbands’ funeral pyres, and Thugs could no longer murder travelers on India’s highways. India is now the world’s largest democracy, as opposed to a collection of squabbling kingdoms, because of English colonialism.
Civilized nations provide for nonviolent means of redress against dysfunctional leaders, with free elections being the most obvious examples. In uncivilized countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, pre-2003 Iraq, Nazi Germany, and so on, the only available redress comes out of a gun barrel–whether carried by a rebellious subject or the soldier of a civilized nation. As shown by the above excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and New Hampshire’s Constitution (not to mention the writings of John Locke), the people of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and so on have every right in the world to remove their rulers by force. By extension, any civilized nation has the right to remove criminals from positions of power, with the provision that it then administers the country for the benefit of its people. Several historical examples show what to do and also what not to do.
(1) After the First World War, France occupied the Rhineland not for the benefit of the German people but for the benefit of France. The objective was to force the German people to pay enormous “reparations” to France for a war that France was as guilty as any of the other belligerants for starting. The result was that the German people welcomed a leader, who was unfortunately Adolf Hitler, who would put an end to this state of affairs.
(2) During the Second World War, Nazi Germany liberated the Ukraine from oppressive Soviet rule. Noting that Joseph Stalin had murdered seven million Ukranians, the Ukranians would have been entirely justified in killing Stalin themselves or welcoming outsiders (like Germans) who might do it for them. Instead of administering the Ukraine for the benefit of the Ukranians, however, the Nazis applied their racial policies to the “inferior” Ukranian Slavs, with the obvious result that the Ukranians turned against them.
(3) After the Second World War, the Western Allies administered Germany for the benefit of the German people, with the Marshall Plan being the foremost example. The result was a friendly German nation instead of a resentful occupied country.
(4) The United States supported the Shah of Iran, who was a despot albeit a progressive one who did many things to modernize his country. The result was a revolution that replaced the Shah with someone who was even worse.
(5) After the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the United States has administered Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis have been very receptive, with murderous violence coming only from Saddam Hussein loyalists, imported terrorists, and religious fanatics who cannot bring themselves to live in peace with their Sunni or Shiite neighbors.
We doubt that anyone will argue that a government that puts its own citizens in concentration camps (Nazi Germany), perpetrates the genocide of seven million of its own people (Stalinist Russia), or throws political opponents into plastic shredders while using poison gas on Kurdish civilians (Saddam Hussein) has any rights whatsoever. As shown by the Nuremberg trials in the case of the Nazis, the criminals who call themselves a governement do not even have a right to live. Their own people, and by extension the people of any civilized nation, have every right in the world to remove such criminals by force of arms.
A Right, not an Obligation
The right to destroy a criminal organization that calls itself a government is not an obligation to do so. The citizen-soldiers of the United States and other civilized nations make themselves available to defend their countries, not to play knight-errant and solve the world’s problems. The United States eradicated Saddam Hussein because he posed an apparent threat to the safety of the United States. The eradication of Iran’s government must depend not on whether Iran is torturing and hanging its own people, but on whether that government can threaten the United States or its allies with nuclear weapons. This is not because the Iranian government has any right to exist or, in the case of a religious judge who hanged a teenage girl for disrespecting him, even a right to live. It is because our own government does not have the right to send its citizen-soldiers to risk their lives for causes other than the security of the United States.
This is not to say, however, that there is any reason why the United States and/or other civilized nations should not hire mercenaries to take out criminal organizations like those that are ruling Iran and (as depicted in “Rambo 4”) Burma. A citizen-soldier volunteers to defend his or her country, but mercenaries fight for pay. The citizen-soldier makes himself or herself available for times of dire need, but mercenaries look for combat because that is how they earn their livings. We also understand that the United States still has the authority to issue letters of marque, which means essentially the licensing of professional pirates to prey on enemy shipping. This approach would not of course absolve the United States of responsibility, since the employment of mercenaries or privateers against an enemy is as much an act of war as the employment of one’s regular Armed Forces, but it would not risk the lives of Americans in causes that do not relate to the United States’ immediate security.
The United Nations is Illegitimate
Whether the United States or other countries exercise their right (but not obligation) to depose the criminal or despotic entities that are ruling places like North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Gaza, and so on is not really relevant to our conclusion: the United Nations’ total lack of moral authority over any civilized nation or person. The Crips and the Bloods do not get a vote on the floor of the United States Senate and, if they walked in and tried to vote on any piece of legislation, they would simply be ignored. The same should go for United Nations resolutions on which despotic, criminal, and other illegitimate regimes have voted. None of the purple “Not Free” countries in the Freedom House’s Map of Freedom for 2007 has anything to say that any civilized person or nation has any obligation to respect. Most prominent among these illegitimate governments are:
United Arab Emirates
Russia is, as Winston Churchill said, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Vladimir Putin is essentially a despotic Tsar whose government is suspected of feeding polonium to political opponents, but the Russian people seem receptive to his rule. Russians have been used to a Tsar or his equivalent (Stalin, Krushchev, Brezhnev) for so long that they will not reject absolutist rule. Furthermore, Putin’s rule has been relatively prosperous for the Russian people because of Russia’s immense natural resources. China also is a mixed bag with an appalling human rights record but a rapidly expanding economy that is good for the Chinese people. The Russian and Chinese governments can probably get away with oppressing their people as long as they keep most of them prosperous.